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Time Zones and Dates

October 30, 2020

Time Zones and Dates

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We all rely on time zones, but in the 19th century, every community set its own time by the sun. This meant that noon in Kingston was 13 minutes ahead of noon in Toronto, and North America had 144 official time zones.

Sir Sandford Fleming, a Canadian scientist and civil engineer, developed a model for international standard time in the late 1870s. His system divided the world into 24 time zones, each one hour apart. Fleming’s idea was practical but was initially rejected by both governments and scientific societies.

However, Fleming persevered, and during the 1884 International Prime Meridian Conference held in Washington, D.C., the world adopted international standard time. It first came into effect on January 1, 1885 and has allowed for greater possibilities in global collaboration.

Standards such as ISO 8601 – Date Elements and Interchangeable Formats, are possible because of standardized time zones. ISO 8601 tackles many aspects of dates, all of which are affected by time zones. This standard is also why you know that a colleague means January 2nd and not February 1st when they write 2020-01-02.

The impacts and benefits of standards are everywhere! As Canada’s voice on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), SCC continues to promote national priorities by ensuring we have an influential voice at the table shaping the international standards of tomorrow.